Transcript: The story Matt wants to tell – TM 2019-04-09 for CR C2 Ep057

A major theme of this Talks episode was the narratives Matt does and doesn’t want to tell. He talked about why he doesn’t want to kill the pets, doesn’t want Nott to be rejected, doesn’t want to end the campaign from poor choices, and wants light in the darkness to inspire. Sam said Matt is “a good man, and a good friend, and a great scene partner…” Matt’s voice acting and detailed world building aren’t what make him a good DM. They’re wonderful, but they’re decoration on his true talents: empathy and reciprocity.

This is a set of lessons any DM can take home and use.

  • “I think, to a certain extent, I’m forgiving because it’s a game you play for fun. And it’s not necessarily fun if part of being caught up in the story and the adventure is having to worry about every single moment…” (0:12:20)
  • Being harsh isn’t always fun. If it’s fun for the player, then sure. But if being harsh will ruin a player’s fun, avoid it until it makes for interesting choices and narrative. Make is a special event, not relentless cruelty.
  • Being a good person, good friend, and a good scene partner means enabling players to be narratively rewarded with happiness.
  • “It’s not fun for you to just tell players, ‘Well, you made a poor choice; now you’re all dead.’ Like, you want the story to keep rolling.” (0:23:57)
  • Think about the story you want to tell, and the story you don’t want to tell. You don’t have to tell stories where everything is awful for it to be dramatic. “There’s enough darkness and tragedy and difficulty in the world and in the stories you guys are playing through, you know, you need to pick moments of light. You need to pick things to fight for. You need to introduce elements that give each character a glimmer to carry them through those difficult points.” (0:33:59)
  • The plays as well and the GM tell the story. Your job as the DM if to facilitate them telling their own story and creating opportunities for their growth.
  • “As a dungeon master, you want to make sure you facilitate the story that gives the opportunity for them to grow together and to make choices that kind of align their goals to the point that they become a solid group and a family, eventually. That’s kind of the basis of a good adventuring party.” (0:55:50)
  • “The challenge is finding ways where you can present them with common ground or give them opportunities to care enough for each other to be invested in each other’s stories, and look for places where naturally some stories can be parallel, or at least, you know, you can achieve goals alongside each other so they don’t feel like they’re constantly at odds with each other’s direction.” (0:56:11)
  • Think of how to set the difficulty of choices. A game where good and evil are more obvious has more obvious choices. It’s more challenging to create a campaign where good and evil exist but determining who is what takes more investigation.
  • “But I guess there is no right path for this campaign, and the right path is sort of whatever we decide it is as a group, or whatever is the most meaningful for us as an individual character in that moment. Which is really more like real life, obviously. And so far, possibly more rewarding, in a way, ’cause we’re not just following along the path of the game to the end of the game, like, we’re making our own path through a world and the game is that journey. It’s not to get from point A to B, it’s the direction that we take it.” (0:57:11)

Scenes runs:

1. Not gonna kill pets easily:  0:12:20 to 0:14:15

2. A good scene partner: 0:15:53 to 0:16:15

3. It’s not fun to kill players for poor choices: 0:23:57 to 0:24:07

4. There’s enough darkness and tragedy in the world: 0:33:33 to 0:34:30

5. It’s fun for players to surprise you: 0:51:37 to 0:53:11

6. DM to facilitate the story 0:55:50 to 0:59:32


1. Not gonna kill pets easily

0:12:20 Matt: “I think, to a certain extent, I’m forgiving because it’s a game you play for fun. And it’s not necessarily fun if part of being caught up in the story and the adventure is having to worry about every single moment they do something cool going to kill their pet. But there is a level of negligence that will come into play.”

Sam, huffily: “I don’t agree. I just disagree fundamentally.

Matt: “Do you?”

Sam, passionately: “If you can’t keep- This is what I was told as a child: okay, you can have a dog, but you’re going to have to take care of it. If Laura Bailey can’t take care of her dog, her imaginary dog, with her imagination she should not be able to have that dog.”

Brain: “I mean, I kind of understand.”

Matt, flatly: “Okay, cool, then kill it.”

Sam, immediately crestfallen: “Oh, I can’t do that to Laura or the dog.”

Matt, yelling: “NOW YOU THINK WHY I CAN’T! SO MUCH EASIER FOR ME! Like, no, okay?”

Laughter.

Sam: “Okay, I see your point. I see your point.”

Matt: “If it’s a scenario where because of her choices she puts a pet in danger intentionally, or it’s a scenario where it would come into play and there’s a failure to maintain its safety, then yes. But more often than not, it if it’s- It comes down to saying, is it more fun if this happens, and if it’s more fun for the player for me to create that challenge constantly, then yes. But with Laura, unless she’s really doing some moves that consciously would put her pets in danger, and it makes an interesting choice that is fun all around, then I’ll do it. Otherwise I don’t want to be too much of a stickler and sit on her good time.”

Dani: “I feel like most situations being faced with the potential of you accidentally killing your dog isn’t fun.”

Matt: “Right, so I’m going to savor those for when it’s right for the narrative so it’s a special event should it occur.”

Sam: “Alright.”

0:14:15

2. A good scene partner

0:15:53 Sam: “But Matt, being a good man, and a good friend, and a great scene partner, he made Yeza an accepting sort, and I’m thrilled, and now I get to explore what the next step is for her and her husband now that they’re at least temporarily together.”

0:16:15

3. It’s not fun to kill players for poor choices

0:23:57 Matt: “Like, I didn’t want it to be like, ‘Well, either this happens or campaign’s over.’ It’s not fun for you to just tell players, ‘Well, you made a poor choice; now you’re all dead.’ Like, you want the story to keep rolling.”

0:24:07

4. There’s enough darkness and tragedy in the world

0:33:33 Matt: “I would hate to think that they would sacrifice so much, and her’ve been through so much, and then to come and go across what is perceived by them as one of the most dangerous places in the world for him to be just an asshole at the end of it.”

Sam: “That would have been funny though.”

Matt: “That would have been funny? It would have been awful!”

Sam: “It would have been awful.”

Matt: “And I don’t want to tell THAT story.”

Brain: “What’s better, though, funny or awful?”

Sam: “You know which side of the coin I fall on. No, no, it was perfect. What you did was perfect.”

Brian: “Yeah, it was.”

0:33:59 Matt: “Well, yeah. And there’s enough darkness and tragedy and difficulty in the world and in the stories you guys are playing through, you know, you need to pick moments of light. You need to pick things to fight for. You need to introduce elements that give each character a glimmer to carry them through those difficult points. And for Nott, really honestly, with everything she’s been through, that one glimmer is her family, and I just wanted to play true to that.”

Sam: “You did good.”

Matt: “Cool.”

Brain: “You did very good.”

0:34:30

5. It’s fun for players to surprise you

0:51:37 Matt: “One of my favorite things about being a dungeon master is when your players surprise you. Not just from their actions, but their growth. And seeing where you all started, seeing kind of the journey of the Mighty Nein from these people that wanted least of all to be involved in grander schemes. That really seem to pay no mind or take any stock in the way the world at large seems to be moving and grinding forward, to step up and begin to take real interest into the care of good people and the future ahead of them. It was amazing.

0:52:22 Matt: “And for me it’s a really thrilling and really prideful moment because it, to me as a story teller, it excites me to think that the players are creating their story as much as I’m creating the world around it. And um, you know, people say, like, ‘Matt, you’re a decent dungeon master.’ I’m like, I’m decent, but it’s the magic that everyone brings to the table together that makes a good story, and that goes for any table out there.

0:52:47 Matt: “And this is a perfect example of moments that are a prime, shining example of what the players bring that makes the story so dynamic and so interesting and beautiful, and I can’t do any of that. I’m just, I’m in awe of what you guys do every week and hope to try and keep up and, you know, do my best to make it worth what you all do, too.”

Sam: “You’re getting there.”

Matt: “I know. I’m working on it.”

0:53:11

6. DM to facilitate the story

0:55:50 Matt: “As a dungeon master, you want to make sure you facilitate the story that gives the opportunity for them to grow together and to make choices that kind of align their goals to the point that they become a solid group and a family, eventually. That’s kind of the basis of a good adventuring party.”

Brain: “But how aligned do you feel everyone’s goals are? Since you know their all back- Since you know everyone’s backstories, I understand what you’re saying, but, like, how aligned are they, do you think?”

0:56:11 Matt: “Not terribly, so the challenge is finding ways where you can present them with common ground or give them opportunities to care enough for each other to be invested in each other’s stories, and look for places where naturally some stories can be parallel, or at least, you know, you can achieve goals alongside each other so they don’t feel like they’re constantly at odds with each other’s direction. You know.? It’s part of the interesting narrative balance you take as a story teller and as a GM is trying to take them on adventures, but also take them on adventures they’re invested in and willing to go along with. And that’s a bit of a buy-in for the players as well, but…”

0:56:51 Sam: “Yeah, this campaign you’ve given us choices that are much more grey, grey choices, I feel. In the first campaign we were all essentially on the same path on the same team.”

Matt: “It was very, good and evil was clearly defined for the most part.”

Sam: “But this is so, so interesting and so much more rewarding.”

Brain: “Is it more challenging for you as a player?”

0:57:11 Sam: “It’s much more challenging ’cause, you know, we’re looking for- I’m looking for those, not clues, but just something I can sink my teeth into to be like, ‘Okay, I think we’re on the right path.’ But I guess there is no right path for this campaign, and the right path is sort of whatever we decide it is as a group, or whatever is the most meaningful for us as an individual character in that moment. Which is really more like real life, obviously. And so far, possibly more rewarding, in a way, ’cause we’re not just following along the path of the game to the end of the game, like, we’re making our own path through a world and the game is that journey. It’s not to get from point A to B, it’s the direction that we take it.”

0:58:09 Brain: “It’s what’s between A and B that’s important, right?”

Sam: “Those are the friends we made along the way.”

Brian: “Jesus Christ. You could have just- Ugh.”

0:58:16 Sam: “But no, it’s interesting, and certainly more frustrating, and challenging, but I think, I hope, ultimately more rewarding. Unless we choose wrong! And maybe we’re wrong about this the whole time and there is a right and wrong answer and we’re just getting it wrong.”

0:58:30 Matt: “Well, I mean, the whole world isn’t grey. There is good and there is evil, and there are things in between, and really what it comes down to is being inquisitive enough and following the right threads to uncover those shades of light and dark amongst the grey. And you guys have done a good job of that in some places, and you guys are beginning to unravel certain threads of that in the world on different faction sides and stuff, and so you’re just now getting to a path. Like, more so previously there it was, you know, personal stories and exploration and kind of things. You’re just now starting to ask more of the right questions and starting to piece together your own interpretations of what’s happening on a macro scale. And for me it’s awesome to see it come together and be like, ‘Oh, they’re onto something. Oh, they’re on the wrong path. Oh, that was an interesting idea. Oh, they’re getting there.’ You know? And like, me knowing kind of what’s going on, I dunno. It’s fun. It’s really fun for me.”

Sam: “It’s fun for me, too.”

0:59:32


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